An impressive start to the season has Pat Connaughton catching eyes of Trail Blazers fans, but it appears he’s got a national audience, too. Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer looked at six players who have improved in some facet this season. Big names like Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal and Ben Simmons make the list.
Yet it’s the shooting of the third-year guard, who went from bench towel-waver to role player, that finds himself alongside these big names:
Connaughton got lost in the shuffle over his first two NBA seasons, but with Allen Crabbe now in Brooklyn and Al-Farouq Aminu playing more power forward (and now out for two to three weeks), minutes at shooting guard are free in Portland ... Connaughton is a joy to watch off the ball. He does an excellent job of making himself available with cuts, misdirections, and screens. Most importantly, he makes the shots, whether he’s off balance or shooting from a standstill. Sometimes, Connaughton looks like he has been watching and learning from J.J. Redick footage.
Connaughton isn’t on Redick’s level. (Duh.) But the Blazers should be happy with what they have … Connaughton has provided a spark off the bench and a valuable target on inbound plays. For as long as Connaughton shoots the lights out, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum will have more than enough room to penetrate into the paint and wreak havoc for opponents.
Over 10 games, Connaughton is averaging 7.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.8 assists on 44.1 percent from the field and 42.5 percent from three. He’s getting three-point shots up (four attempts per game) which hasn’t been the case in years past—He averaged 0.8 and 0.6 attempts per game the last two seasons.
His high three-point attempt average this season also comes with a career-high 1.7 makes per game. He’s actually made more threes (17) than twos (nine) this season.
Connaughton has been effective in spurts. He’ll pop off for a game with eight or nine points then fall back to three points. But he’s seeing the ball go in, which can only help his confidence in that improved shot.
One thing to watch for is Connaughton making it his mission to knock down a couple of threes per game. He’s been a little hesitant at times to shoot, yet that’s his calling card. He won’t see shots fall unless he actually attempts them.
After all, in the eight games he’s attempted three (or more) three-pointers, he’s made at least one. And in the six games he’s attempted four (or more), he’s made at least two all but once. The touch is clearly there.